So the front, right speaker in my Subaru Outback is blown out. I’ve often wondered why one speaker blows out before the rest, but I guess I’m glad that only one of them rattles these days. I have to confess, it wasn’t the crazy nights bumping around w/ my posse that caused the damage, it was probably driving to swim practice at 4:45am on a weekday morning, playing Radiohead much too loud for the majority of the population.
Getting out of bed is hard, but not so bad because my favorite part of those mornings is the drive to the pool, the empty freeway and even though it’s still dark the birds sing along giving us false hope of an early northwest summer. My seat warmer is on, my tea is piping hot and my music, as previously noted, is for lack of a better word, loud.
Stripping down to my suit and walking out to the pool deck is painful, it’s that sense of cold that creeps under your skin. The competition (short course meters) pool was completely empty, and there was no one behind the blocks to indicate procrastinators intending on swimming portions of the workout. No coach either. My other options are the warm pool (short course yards and about 10 degrees warmer) or the hot tub. Eight weeks out of knee surgery and I hadn’t been in the hot tub in what seemed like ages. Hot tubs exist on pool decks for most swimmers to stare longingly at, or to get verbally berated by a coach for pretending to stick a toe in. With no sensible thought of a long warm-up, I parked it in the hot tub. For 20min I sat and stared at the clock watching and hoping no familiar swimmers would walk out of the locker rooms towards the empty cold pool. As I sat there I concluded that if no one showed up I would just go home.
That got me thinking, what motivates me? What drives me to get out of bed before our automatic heater turns on, and jump in a cold pool 6 days a week? It was about five years ago when determined I would become a swimmer and started swimming masters, that’s when I started feeling that awful feeling. The feeling of diving into cold water before your body is awake enough to generate its own body heat. Just the thought of that moment makes me gag, diving in and coming up for your first stroke with a chill that pierces your bones. Why do I do it?
I like competing. I like going fast, I like pushing myself as fast and as hard as I possibly can, and I like the competition because they push me even harder. I like the adrenaline rush of cornering full speed in spikes through a cross country course, tucking in aero bars down a descent worrying only about how to get more aero and pass just one more girl, the shiver that shoots through your entire body as you realize you do have one more gear with 600meters to go on the track. If you’ve ever felt your body near 100% at just the right time, hopefully race day, then you understand. If you’ve ever surprised yourself by holding a pace, finishing strong, or surrounded by competitors you thought were way out of your league, you understand. If you’ve worked months at a sport and one afternoon realized in the middle of a 60 minute pace run that you were flying with minimal effort after dragging your body through months of training, you understand. You may ask yourself, what is that feeling worth? An entire season of mornings filled w/ gag reflexes, getting on your bike w/ no energy when everything else inside of you screams couch and nachos, aqua jogging because a sunny day run may put your knee over the edge,…no not a season, numerous seasons. I think back on my college running career and think fondly of only one season, my senior year track season. Those few races in 2002 were well worth four years of high altitude training and getting stomped on repeatedly by much skinnier BYU girls w/ children. So without completing a novel, I love competing, but with all that intensity saved up for race day, how do you keep your focus, where do you find your motivation in training?
I like to think I’m a good coach, but I would consider myself my worst athlete by far. I go into overload, become short-sighted and wrapped up in the daily details of training and on certain days or weeks I lose all sense of motivation. In this state of overload there are only a couple people who understand me as an athlete, or as they otherwise refer to me, “retarded”. And knowing this I know who will give me a straight up no BS response to my tightly wound up lack of composure. The first one is my husband, who unfortunately for me, I rarely listen to. The second is my previous coach and good friend who after a “freak-out” morning the other day only told me 4 words,….but mind you he repeated them about 5 times. ”You are not training!” I’m rehabbing, that’s right, I’m rehabbing. Just being reminded of my main objective put me at ease, set me back straight on my path and motivated me to take small steps to achieve that goal. And once I reach that goal I’ll renew my motivation with another big picture, maybe it’s a race date, maybe it’s a time goal, maybe it’s just the goal of getting back out there and competing, really competing.
So what is it that motivates you to achieve your goal? It could be as simple as feeling fit, spending time with good friends, kicking a friend in the pants up a climb (you’d be surprised what a big motivator this one is), a release from stressors, winning your age group or making an Olympic team. The list goes on and on, but motivation is something only you can find for yourself. And once you determine what that motivation is you need someone to really understand that and hold you accountable. To understand your big picture so they can slap you in the face with it when you inevitably go into overload. And as much as we would all like to deny it, self inflicted overload happens more than we realize, and much too often for our family and friends to stomach.
Any decent coach or training partner can hold you accountable to your training goals, so find those people in your life who will remind you when you forget, which you will, what motivates you. Someone to kick you out of bed at 4:45am when you’ve hit the snooze button one too many times, someone to reprimand you for getting down on yourself because you’ve lost sight of the big picture, someone to laugh in your face and call you a gimp during rehab because they understand what it takes and what you sacrifice to chase your dreams down a long steep, dusty dirty trail, blown speakers and all.
Lara Brown a native of Portland, Oregon currently resides in
Redmond, Washington . After attending the
Colorado Springs she served 5 years in the Air Force. She is presently competing as a professional triathlete, and works as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org